Thinking Out Loud

July 10, 2017

If I Pray It But Don’t Live It

Yesterday and today we’re featuring the better writer in the family, my loving wife Ruth Wilkinson. This is a liturgical type of reading she wrote for our church service last week.

If I pray “Our Father”
and then fail to come to you as a child, trusting and learning –
Forgive me.

If I pray “who art in Heaven”
and then spend all my energy on earthly things –
Forgive me.

If I pray “Holy is your name”
and then, carrying your name, live unholy –
Forgive me.

If I pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done”
and then fail to listen for and obey your voice on Earth –
Forgive me.

If I pray “Give us our daily bread”
and then ignore the immediate and desperate needs of others –
Forgive me.

If I pray “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”
and then choose to go where I know I’ll be tempted –
Forgive me.

If I pray “Yours is the kingdom”
and then fight for my own rights and my own way –
Forgive me.

If I pray “Yours is the power”
and then live according to what my neighbours or friends or society might say or do –
Forgive me.

If I pray “Forgive me”
and then hold grudges and dig in my heels –
Lead me in your way.
Give me your strength, your grace and your love for those around me.

So that I can pray “Amen”.

“So be it.”

“Cost what it may, this is my prayer.”

Forever.

Amen.

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July 10, 2016

The Meek, Frank Zappa, and The Life of Brian

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:24 am

img 071016Two days ago, for the second time, we poached a devotional blog post for C201 from The King’s English, an interestingly named site considering the goal is to work through King James Version verses phrase by phrase. But the writer is hardly what you might picture, given the KJV connection, and when I saw this article, I thought, this is perfect for Thinking Out Loud. The writer is Glen Scrivener, and now I owe him two favors; so please click the link below to read this at source…


Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth

Psalm 37; Matthew 5:5

In The Life of Brian we join the outskirts of Christ’s audience for the sermon on the mount.  “The meek shall inherit the earth” filters through to one listener:

“Oh that’s nice innit, I’m glad they get something cos they have a hell of a time.”

It’s a brilliant line.  But Jesus isn’t throwing out a twee consolation to the downtrodden.  He’s preaching revolution.  This is all about world domination.  Who will take over the earth?  Rupert Murdoch?  One World Government?  Militant Islam?  Google? No, the meek.

It’s a laughable prospect.  It sounds as absurd as yesterday’s blessed mourners.  But that’s the nature of the beatitudes, they turn the world right-side-up.  To the world’s ears though, it can only sound ridiculous.

Listen to how Frank Zappa lampooned the phrase in his song: The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing

Some take the Bible for what it’s worth
When it says that the meek shall inherit the earth
Well, I heard some sheik has bought New Jersey last week
And you suckers aint gettin nothin’!

We laugh because we recognize the picture Zappa paints of this world.  It’s dog eat dog and the strong eat the weak.  Fortune favours the brave.  Only the strong survive right?  Well apparently not.  Jesus is saying that everything we thought we knew about power is wrong.  In fact we’re wrong about the whole way in which the world works.

Jesus is not giving us a verse to be cross-stitched onto wall-hangings.  It’s an infallible prophecy of cosmic proportions.  In this dog eat dog world there will be one power that comes out on top.  At the end of all history, emerging from the interplay of a million forces and vested interests, one group will emerge with absolute dominion: the meek.

You could translate it as “gentle” or “friendly” or “humble”.  After millennia of cut and thrust, the winner-takes-all-victors will be the lowly.

Do you have a hard time believing that?  I do.  And an even harder time living it. Why?  Well I wonder if my problem is that I don’t really believe that this is Christ’s universe.  As we considered on the first day of the year, we imagine that the power behind this world is “nothingness” or “chaos” or “a lonely god.”  And if that really were what was “in the beginning” then the meek have no future at the end.  But if Jesus really is Lord, then the Suffering Servant really is the Power behind this universe.

Jesus describes Himself as “meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29) and He meets the power-plays of the earth with perfect peace.  As He lay in the grave on Easter Saturday, nothing looked more foolish than His beatitudes.  And yet on Easter Sunday it wasn’t just Jesus who was vindicated.  His whole project of world-domination-by-meekness was established.  It’s not just that the meek will “get something.”  Those who stop exalting themselves and take refuge in Jesus will be the only ones who get anything. In fact, they’ll get everything.  Because the future really does belong to Christ.


Today’s graphic image was sourced at the website, You Have Heard It Said, which also has some interesting thoughts on the same passage. (Interesting find. I have a feeling we’ll be dropping by there again soon…)

July 15, 2014

Unfamiliarizing Familiar Texts

Filed under: prayer, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:46 am

We ran these on the blog six years ago…

The Beatitude Creed

How about this for a novel creed:

I believe that the poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of Heaven.
I believe there will be comfort for those who mourn.
I believe that being meek is a good thing and that those who give everything will inherit the earth.
I believe that those whose heart is set on seeking righteousness will find it.
I believe the merciful will receive more than they think they deserve.
I believe the pure in heart will be blessed and will see God.
I believe that those who long for peace and do more than others think is safe are children of the living God.
I believe in a place of safety for those who are hurt for trying to do the right thing.

I believe that being poor, and ignored and weak, and sick and tired and broken and messed up and kicked around is not as spiritually dangerous as being self-satisfied and clever and well-clothed and well-fed and degreed and creed-ed and important.

~posted July 17th, 2008 at A Life Reviewed blog – Joe and Heather live in Coventry in the English West Midlands


A different version of The Lord’s Prayer

The following is a version of what is commonly known as ‘The Lord’s Prayer.’ However this version is one translated from Aramaic, rather than Greek.

Oh Thou, from whom the breath of life comes,
who fills all realms of sound, light and vibration.
May Your light be experienced in my utmost holiest.
Your Heavenly Domain approaches.

Let Your will come true
in the universe
just as on earth.

Give us wisdom for our daily need,
detach the fetters of faults that bind us,
like we let go the guilt of others.

Let us not be lost in superficial things,
but let us be freed from that what keeps us off from our true purpose.

From You comes the all-working will,
the lively strength to act,
the song that beautifies all and renews itself from age to age.

Sealed in trust, faith and truth.
(I confirm with my entire being)

Some say that the Aramaic is the original, some say the Greek. I don’t know enough to say. The Lord’s Prayer does seem to have its origins in the Jewish Kaddish, a liturgical prayer developed in Babylonia and spoken in Aramaic.

I think it’s a beautiful version, whatever the logistics are.

~ from Kay at The Crowded Handbasket blog on July 25, 2008


Why The Poor In Spirit Are Blessed

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:3)

Author and theologian Monika Hellwig gives us the following:

  1. The poor in spirit know they are in need and can’t help themselves.
  2. The poor in spirit know not only their dependence on God and on powerful people but also their interdependence with others.
  3. The poor in spirit rest their security not on things but on people.
  4. The poor in spirit have no exaggerated sense of their own importance and no exaggerated need of privacy.
  5. The poor in spirit are less interested in competition and more interested in cooperation.
  6. The poor in spirit instinctively appreciate family, love and relationships over things.
  7. The poor in spirit can wait, because they have learned patience.
  8. The fears of the poor in spirit are more realistic and exaggerate less, because they already know they can survive great suffering and want.
  9. When the poor in spirit have the gospel preached to them, it sounds like good news and not like a threatening or scolding.
  10. The poor in spirit can respond to the call of the gospel with a certain abandonment and uncomplicated totality because they have so little to lose and are ready for anything.

~found in files; original source unknown

October 2, 2013

Wednesday Link List

This is what greeted worshipers as they arrived at church on Sunday; Mrs. W. snapped a picture.

This is what greeted worshipers as they arrived at church on Sunday; Mrs. W. snapped a picture.

[B]link and you’ll miss it!  As per usual, the links are missing in all the stories below. You have two options: (a) spend hours using search engines to try to figure out where the pirate treasure is buried (see above) or (b) visit the Link List’s new owners at Out of Ur

  • Usually the video links come near the end. But not when it’s a new song by Gungor.
  • So why does Compassion invite online writers to apply for one of their overseas trips if they only choose A-list faith bloggers?
  • Apparently a respected Canadian Bible college has some history with the world’s favorite funeral protestor.
  • If 150 churches donated $1,000, it would buy a home for Saeed Abedini’s family. Meanwhile, Billy Graham asks Iran’s President for Saeed’s release, as does President Obama.
  • Two architectural firms are set to begin the transformation of the former Crystal Cathedral into a Catholic-friendly facility.
  • Seven years later, the wife of the Amish schoolhouse shooter breaks her silence.
  • A Chinese pastor thinks Rick Warren needs a lesson in cultural sensitivity, while the blogger known as Naked Pastor discusses the same adapted Red Guard propaganda poster.
  • A Wisconsin truck driver has so far spent over half a million dollars funding a billboard ministry on major highways.
  • A pastor in Louisiana was shot to death during a Friday night church service. Then, after reading that, the story gets worse a few days later.
  • When their daughter’s wedding was canceled, the parents of the bride invited 200 homeless people to the four-course meal that would have been the reception.
  • Essay(s) of the Week: A tie between two pieces by Hannah Anderson, her piece on Childlessness, and an open letter to her insurance company.
  • Married people remember their single days with affection, but for those still single, their experience doesn’t match the stories.
  • Why clergy shouldn’t dispense medical advice: Women who drive automobiles risk damaging their ovaries.
  • A Church planter proves the axiom that hindsight is always 20/20 .
  • History Lesson: Once upon a time, people wrote music reviews of new albums.
  • Some pastoral leadership errors can be overcome, but there are three mistakes you really want to avoid.
  • Church. It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. But it’s the best because of what Jesus is doing.
  • Speculative Church History Department: Would U.S. President Barak Obama bomb the Canaanites?
  • Speculative Music History Department: What if The Beatles sang theology?
  • The problem with prostitution is that we sugarcoat it instead of seeing it as a form of rape.
  • Bible Translation of the Week: The International Standard Version, version 2.0 (that would be the ISV-V2.0)
  • Alternative Bible Version of the Week: God is Disappointed in You; by humorist Mark Russell along with a cartoonist from New Yorker magazine.
  • Also in the humor section of your local e-bookstore is  Joel Osteen’s Jokes: Collection of Joel Osteen’s Funniest Short, Clean Jokes. Apparently this is the latest in the potentially copyright-infringing series called Joel’s Gems.
  • Seems like everywhere you turn, there is a television show with a faith-based theme.
  • Finally, there are some great articles online promoting Christian higher education, and then, on the other hand, there’s hype and propaganda.

Now you’re curious, right?  Click over to Out of Ur, a website of Christianity Today.

I love this photo of the work done by the girls at this year's Fine Arts Edge Camp at Camp IAWAH in Ontario, Canada

I love this photo of the work done by the girls at this year’s Fine Arts Edge Camp at Camp IAWAH in Ontario, Canada

September 27, 2013

Sin: Don’t Even Think About It!

tempting

 

On Tuesday I was speaking with someone who is heading off to a small Bible college in Eastern Canada. I asked him if he needed help with textbooks, and he said that the school tends to write their own curriculum as they have a unique take on how they approach some Bible subjects. Sometimes this can be a red-flag, so I asked him to give me an example, and it actually turned out to be something I found challenging and want to share here.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says,

NIV Matt. 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Not all the teaching in this section specifically references the Decalogue, but what if we applied that “Don’t even think about it” standard to all of the other Ten Commandments? He told me that’s exactly what they did in their discussion of this passage. That got me thinking. Instead of “Thou shalt nots” it might look like this:

  1. Don’t even think about putting any other interest, hobby, passion, person, pet, or other god-to-be-worshiped ahead of me (or even on an equal place).
  2. Don’t even think about giving special place to any physical representation of something (existing or in fantasy) that then occupies a central place in your life.
  3. Don’t even think about using God’s name casually or disrespectfully.
  4. Don’t even think about doing some chores or work for pay during the time you know should be set aside for God and for the rest He commands. If it is within your power, don’t compel others to work during this time, either.
  5. Don’t even think about how, given other circumstances, you’d love to kill someone if you thought you’d get away with; or harbor the anger that rises to that level.
  6. Don’t even think about going against the values your parents taught you, or doing something against their wishes. Their values and wishes and the proverbs they taught you will lead to long life.
  7. Don’t even think about having sex with someone who is not your wife; those thoughts will consume you and furthermore, it’s not likely to ever happen, you’re just driving yourself crazy!
  8. Don’t even think about taking something that isn’t yours.
  9. Don’t even think about misrepresenting someone else or putting spin on a story so it makes them look bad.
  10. Don’t even think about comparing yourself to what your neighbor, or co-worker, or extended family member has, or to his or her spouse, and wishing you could have that life or lifestyle.

Feel free to refine what I’ve written in the comments, or take the list in Exodus 20, and rewrite it in your own personal style or adding things you feel conform to the intention of the text when combined with the application of Matthew 5.

Another thing that struck me as I studied this was how The Voice Bible rendered the “You have heard it said” sections of Matthew 5.

This translations also breaks down specifically the origin of “You have heard it said…”

  • 21 As you know, long ago God instructed Moses to tell
  • 27 As you know, long ago God forbade His people…
  • 31 And here is something else: you have read in Deuteronomy that
  • 33 You know that…
  • 38 You know that Hebrew Scripture sets this standard…
  • 43 You have been taught…

The Voice puts its “You have heard…” sections in italics in this version to indicate that yes, the translators have taken a liberty with the original text in order to provide clarity. What is especially worth noting here is that we generally read these with the inference that Jesus is now introducing something new, but these readings imply that the wider implications of what Jesus taught have been implicit in the text all along, if only we could see it that way.

  • 22 But here is the even harder truth
  • 28 You may think you have abided by this Commandment, walked the straight and narrow…
  • 34 But I tell you this: do not ever swear an oath. What is an oath? You cannot say, “I swear by heaven”—for heaven is not yours to swear by; it is God’s throne. 35 And you cannot say, “I swear by this good earth,” for the earth is not yours to swear by; it is God’s footstool. And you cannot say, “I swear by the holy city Jerusalem,” for it is not yours to swear by; it is the city of God, the capital of the King of kings.

Jesus’ teaching is clear: Don’t even consider wandering from the path, from God’s default settings, even for a moment!

NIV II Tim. 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus

 

 

image: Toon Pool

June 20, 2012

Wednesday Link List

The fine print: By reading this link list I agree to actually click a few links and check out the stories, and not just scan the summaries and leave.

February 6, 2011

Praying By The Book

This is Superbowl day, so I’m expecting most of my traffic today to be women.  Yes, a stereotype, I know.   In my experience, women are the “pray-ers” of the church.  Behind every great Christian male leader, there is a woman (or several) praying for him not to make a mess of things!   I wrote this post a year ago while wrestling with the issue of how prayer takes shape differently depending on your faith family…

Prayer is talking to God.

Talking is a natural form of communication. Think of the number of people you talk to in a day. How many times does the average person work from a prepared text?

None. You don’t write out ahead of time what you’re going to say unless you’re giving a speech at a wedding reception or don’t want to miss anything when you’re telling the boss why you’re giving your two weeks notice.

So why “read” your talking to God? What exactly is the point of a “prayer book?” Granted, you might use a phrase book if you were in a foreign country. Could it be that when some people leave their normal world and enter a Church building, or into prayer, they feel they are in a foreign country?

And why repeat The Lord’s Prayer (aka The Our Father) over and over and over and over again, when in fact, it’s recorded in scripture directly after a verse that says don’t repeat prayers over and over and over and over again.

Learn a new word today:

This is the word that describes a type of prayer that is open, honest, vulnerable…

God wants people who are in relationship to him. A relationship based on love, which casts out fear. The closer the relationship, the less prepared text. You don’t know all those people who are going hear that wedding speech, so you prepare. You fear the meeting with your boss, so you write out notes.

Is there ever a time for a prepared prayer? If you’re coming to God on behalf of a group of people in a corporate worship setting, perhaps. You don’t want to miss anything and you want to be specific. You’re not just going to mention the requests made by John, Jessica, Nathan and Emily, but you want to remember what it is you’re asking that God might do for them. You want to remember the military serving overseas, the orphans in Haiti, victims of human rights violations in China, etc.

But even this can be done naturally. If you can tell someone afterward what it is you prayed for, you can also construct a prayer on the spot that tells God the same thing, without extensive notes.

Matt 6: 7(CEV)When you pray, don’t talk on and on as people do who don’t know God. They think God likes to hear long prayers.

It’s interesting that no matter how this verse is translated — “pagans” is used most often — ornate prayers are associated with “people who don’t know God.” So by implication, less flowery prayers are often prayed by people who do know God.

Word of the day: Extemporaneous. Short, breath prayers. Prayers from the heart. Talking to God as you would talk to a friend. An agenda, perhaps; but not a script. And definitely not out of a book.

When is the last time you simply poured out your heart to God and told him everything you’re feeling and thinking? Now is a good time to start.

UPDATE: After I wrote this piece, I received what is perhaps a kind of op-ed comment, one of the few times my wife left a comment here:

Written prayers are the church equivalent of greeting cards.

Some people just pick one with the right phrase up front ’cause you’ve got to pick something.

And sometimes how they’re written expresses your heart better than you could yourself and you’re thrilled to find just the right one.

You can read the rest of the comments from a year ago here.


July 13, 2010

Blessed Are

This is a combination of two blog posts from July 2008…

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3)

Author and theologian Monika Hellwig gives us the following:

  1. The poor in spirit know they are in need and can’t help themselves.
  2. The poor in spirit know not only their dependence on God and on powerful people but also their interdependence with others.
  3. The poor in spirit rest their security not on things but on people.
  4. The poor in spirit have no exaggerated sense of their own importance and no exaggerated need of privacy.
  5. The poor in spirit are less interested in competition and more interested in cooperation.
  6. The poor in spirit instinctively appreciate family, love and relationships over things.
  7. The poor in spirit can wait, because they have learned patience.
  8. The fears of the poor in spirit are more realistic and exaggerate less, because they already know they can survive great suffering and want.
  9. When the poor in spirit have the gospel preached to them, it sounds like good news and not like a threatening or scolding.
  10. The poor in spirit can respond to the call of the gospel with a certain abandonment and uncomplicated totality because they have so little to lose and are ready for anything.

~found in files; original source unknown

Part Two: The Beatitude Creed:

I believe that the poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of Heaven.
I believe there will be comfort for those who mourn.
I believe that being meek is a good thing and that those who give everything will inherit the earth.
I believe that those whose heart is set on seeking righteousness will find it.
I believe the merciful will receive more than they think they deserve.
I believe the pure in heart will be blessed and will see God.
I believe that those who long for peace and do more than others think is safe are children of the living God.
I believe in a place of safety for those who are hurt for trying to do the right thing.

I believe that being poor, and ignored and weak, and sick and tired and broken and messed up and kicked around is not as spiritually dangerous as being self-satisfied and clever and well-clothed and well-fed and degreed and creed-ed and important.

~posted July 17th, 2008 at A Life Reviewed blog – Joe and Heather live in Coventry in the English West Midlands

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